More to the job than meets the eye

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: March 24th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

More to the job than meets the eye
By Tom Chard

 


Athletic trainers like Stan Rintz of Cheverus work with athletes like basketball player Elizabeth Daniels not only to assess and treat injuries, but also to help prevent them.

Cheverus guard Doug Alston hobbled off the floor with three minutes left in the Western Maine Class A basketball final. The first one to him was the school´s athletic trainer, Stan Rintz.

Rintz assessed the injury, the first job of an athletic trainer, and determined Alston had sprained his ankle.

"I have to go back in, I have to go back in," Alston said.

After an evaluation, Rintz taped Alston´s ankle and he went back in, but only briefly. Moments later, Cheverus had its regional title and soon set its sights on Bangor and the state championship.

Rintz´s focus turned to getting Alston healthy for the state final.

"We had our work cut out for us," said Rintz about treating Alston´s injury so he could play a week later.

Alston´s injury illustrates the challenges athletic trainers face. Athletes are conditioned to play while athletic trainers are there to make sure they don´t play until they´re ready.

"Our job is evaluation and assessment of athletic injuries," said Matt Cook, the former trainer at Thornton Academy.

"We treat muscle strains, sprains and fractures. We manage injuries. We do a lot of counseling with athletes and deal with the psychological effects of injuries. We deal a lot with the parents."

March is National Athletic Training Month. Athletic trainers around the country are looking to elevate awareness of their profession. Trainers have been working at the collegiate and pro levels for years.

Their employment at the high school level has increased dramatically in the past 15 years. In Maine, most Class A schools have trainers, as do many Class B schools. The smaller the school, the less likely it will have an athletic trainer.

To celebrate National Athletic Training Month, the Maine Athletic Trainers´ Association held its annual banquet this month in Bangor.

It awarded its coveted Bill Cox Award for dedicated service to Chris Sementelli, the trainer at Gardiner High. The banquet´s theme: "Who´s Taking Care Of Our Kids."

Despite their presence in Maine high schools, trainers said there are still many who don´t know what they do. They said educating the public is important.

"A lot of people think all we do is tape ankles and hand out ice," said Deering High trainer Greg Tosi.

Tosi said trainers got a bad rap recently with the soap opera of Brian McNamee versus Roger Clemens. Tosi pointed out McNamee was Clemens´ personal trainer and not an athletic trainer.

To become a certified athletic trainer, a person needs to earn a four-year degree in athletic training from an accredited college and pass a national exam.

In addition, Maine requires athletic trainers to be licensed. Every three years, they are required to complete 75 hours of continuing education.

JOB BASICS

"The bulk of our job is injury prevention," said Bangor High trainer John Ryan. "We do a lot with conditioning, strength training and nutrition. We have a lot of athletes who want to know about supplements. We provide them with the information and let them make a decision."

"It´s important for athletic trainers to get out and educate the public on what we do. That goes with educating the school committees and the superintendents. I don´t think they have a clear understanding of the important function we serve. Educating them is crucial with the state of finances in Maine."

VALUABLE SERVICE

Some schools like Bangor, Cheverus, Portland and Deering have full-time athletic trainers while other schools contract out training services with physical therapy companies.

Deering´s Tosi and Audrey McKenzie of Portland High are full-time faculty members.

McKenzie, who has worked at Portland for 12 years, said her duties are so well ingrained in the minds of the school´s parents that should any talk of cutting her position arise, it would bring a strong outcry from the school community.

She said the theme of "Who´s Taking Care Of Our Kids" means parents can be confident that should their son or daughter get injured, they´ll receive prompt and excellent care.

McKenzie cited the cost benefit to families of having a trainer at a school.

"A lot of times we can treat the athlete, which can save a family a lot of money in a doctor visit," said McKenzie.

Athletic trainers are quick to refer an athlete to a doctor if needed. Both Deering and Portland have team doctors on the sideline during football games.

"Portland and Deering are fortunate to have excellent working relations with the area´s doctors," said McKenzie.

Tosi recalled a time a parent called him at home at night asking if he would treat a child. Tosi agreed and saved the family a trip to the doctor the next day.

WIDE RANGE OF DUTIES

In any given season, Tosi and McKenzie are responsible for between 300 to 350 athletes daily. A trainer´s hours can vary from 5 to 12 hours a day, depending on how many games are being played and whether the school has lighted fields.

"Last spring, I had six different home games at the same time," said Cook.

A trainer can´t cover all the games and has to set priorities. But the trainer is only a cellphone call away and can respond if needed.

In Maine, athletic trainers´ pay ranges from $35,000 to $60,000 a year.

"The athletic trainer is an integral part of an athletic program, especially in a large school program," said Thornton Academy Athletic Administrator Gary Stevens.

"We had 381 athletes participating in our fall programs and we´ve already had 381 sign up for spring sports. Athletic trainers are an indispensable part of an athletic program."

GETTING RESULTS

In Maine, coaches are required by the Maine Principals´ Association to pass first-aid and CPR courses. The Maine Athletic Trainers´ Association wrote the curriculum and, in most cases, teach the courses to the coaches.

Rintz´s treatment of Alston and the fact the game was postponed that Saturday to the next Tuesday allowed Alston to perform at 100 percent.

"It was great to have those extra days," said Rintz.

Alston could have played Saturday but estimates he would have been between 75 and 80 percent effective.

He spent 1 1/2 hours each day after school getting treatment from Rintz and assistant Katie MacCarthy.

"I got a lot of heating and cooling of the ankle," said Alston. "They also did some electric shock to get the swelling out.

"Having the game delayed made all the difference. I felt good and was ready to go."

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:
tchard@pressherald.com